Ethics & Downtown Revitalization

All we know for sure is this: DeKalb Mayor Frank Van Buer cast a vote against Gavin Wilson’s candidacy as 5th Ward alderman. The mayor is now found to have close political relationships with Wilson’s opponent in the race and with the man who challenged Wilson’s ballot petition.

Van Buer’s campaign manager, Don Floyd, says that the mayor did disclose, by way of filing electronically with the Illinois State Board of Elections (btw, the irony has not escaped me). He’s got a point. How is it that the opposition party–in this case the Republicans–didn’t dig up that nugget? How did the Daily Chronicle miss it? As for myself, I didn’t blink or think twice at the time, when Van Buer said “We were advised that that was a mandatory.” That’s ’cause I trusted him.

I assume that when Van Buer sought legal advice, it was from the city attorney. Perhaps he should also have visited with the city manager, who is the designated ethics advisor for the city. That way the mayor’s men maybe wouldn’t have to be engaged right now in a flurry of damage control activity because the ethics of the situation called for recusal. Recusal would have saved the day.

At any rate let’s pursue a big-picture hypothesis brought to the fore by Gavin Wilson:

The Mayor and I were not strangers. He had just recently sent me a letter asking me not to write any more letters to the Chronicle, or it would undo all the things he was trying to accomplish, (for instance, removing the only viable parking in the downtown). I did write more, and I know this was not an action that would endear me to him.

The mayor didn’t have to try to shut him down. There’s a very clear consensus on working the downtown revitalization plan and it includes Wilson. He and other downtown businesses only had a problem with removing a parking lot that merchants north of Route 38 depend on (citybarbs discussions here and here.) Personally I think Wilson’s wrong (IMO the parking problem north of 38 is well addressed in the plan) but the city also was wrong by minimizing the extent of the concern. Fortunately, one administrator called the opposition “miniscule,” which inflamed the downtown merchants to no end and forced a public meeting.

Thus a pattern of trying to neutralize challenges to the Plan has been established. Meanwhile, the city moves like the proverbial well-oiled machine, buying up and fixing up and, I suppose, soon to be demolishing and building, and it’s happening like lightening compared to the speed with which the city usually moves. Was Gavin Wilson’s candidacy essentially bull-dozed by the Plan Machine? We’ll never know, but at the least his story prompts us to look for that dangerous end-justifies-the-means attitude and to try to ensure that Plan casualties are minimized amid the rush.


More at DeKalb County Online.